Chocolate truffles with Grand Marnier (or plain)

Here's another sweet item I've wanted to make for some time: chocolate truffles.  This is the perfect time to make some and share with a few friends.  For the grown-up version, I made chocolate truffles with Grand Marnier, or orange liqueur.  Instead of cookies and milk, how about setting this out for Santa this year?
I used a combination of semisweet and bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate for these truffles.  Omit the Grand Marnier and make plain truffles for the youngsters.  I prefer the taste and look of rolling them in unsweetened cocoa powder rather than confectioners' sugar but I mixed the two up for the sake of easy identification.
I love ganache and truffles are essentially ganache (chocolate and cream) rolled up in truffle shape.  They are very rich so a little goes a long way.  But silky smooth and deep with chocolate flavor, they are a great indulgence during the holiday time.  If necessary, make the truffles in advance and store them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks (though of course, they taste better the fresher they are), bringing them to room temperature before serving.  You might need to re-roll them in cocoa powder or confectioners' sugar again if it's been in the fridge for a while. 

I've heard many times on cooking shows and food magazines that making chocolate truffles at home is very simple.  Turns out, it is pretty easy but because you need to chill the ganache a couple of times in between rolling them, it's a bit time consuming and messy.  I think it's worth it to make for a party or to share with friends.  

The star of the show is chocolate so use great chocolate - i.e., what you like to eat.  This recipe uses a pound, 16 ounces, of chocolate.  I mixed half Callebaut semisweet chocolate and half Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate.  The only other thing you really need is a cup of heavy cream.  This is optional but I also added a bit of instant espresso powder (which enhances the chocolate flavor) or you could use a tablespoon of brewed coffee for the same effect if you have it around.  To make truffles with Grand Marnier, you need 2 tablespoons of the liqueur.  It's not shown in the picture below but I also added a 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. 
Start by chopping up the pound of chocolate very finely.  Put it into a heatproof bowl along with a teaspoon of instant espresso powder (optional). 
Heat the cup of heavy cream until just to a boil.  Then pour it over the chocolate through a fine mesh sieve.  
I let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes before slowly whisking it together to combine.  
If your chocolate does not totally melt under the hot cream (like mine), set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and gently whisk until the chocolate is fully melted.
It should look like this...I'm ready to dive in!

At this point, add the flavorings.  That includes two tablespoons of Grand Marnier (you could experiment with other liqueurs like Frangelico, which is hazelnut) and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  If you didn't use the espresso powder and have brewed coffee around, add a tablespoon to heighten the chocolate flavor.
After adding the vanilla extract, I separated about 1/3 of the ganache for plain truffles.  For the remaining, I'm adding some Grand Marnier.  Chill the ganache for about an hour until firm enough to scoop.
I used a melon baller to scoop up rounds of the ganache.  Scoop and drop onto a wax or parchment lined baking sheet.  In the bowl, you'll find that the top is firmer while the center is still loose - refrigerating in a square pan would make for a more even consistency all round.

Pop the trays in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.  then roll them with your hand and try to get it in a roughly round shape.  Warning:  don't look for perfect rounds, it's not possible unless you want to seriously manhandle the truffles and get super messy.  You could try your luck using an ice cream scoop too; you just want to use a very small one since you don't want these very large (they're rich).
I rolled the plain truffles in confectioners' sugar and the ones with Grand Marnier in unsweetened cocoa powder so there'd be no confusion.  I found it best to just roll it with your hands and shape off the excess powder; using a sieve left marks on them.
Although I found the texture of the truffles to be best the week it's made, they can be stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for a couple of weeks.  Be sure to bring them back up to room temperature before serving.  If it's been sitting in the fridge for a while and some of the coating gets absorbed, just re-roll them again.
The truffles are very smooth and tasty...good enough to savor. 
Recipe:

Chocolate Truffles with Grand Marnier
From Ina Garten's recipe (with just a couple of minor changes and clarifications in the directions)

- Makes approximately 35 truffles -

1/2 pound (8 oz.) good quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 pound good quality semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (you could also use another liqueur you like)
1 tablespoon prepared coffee (or 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Unsweetened cocoa powder or confectioners' sugar for coating (you could also use finely chopped nuts)

Chop the chocolate very finely with a sharp serated knife.  Place chocolate (and instant espresso powder, if using instead of coffee) into a heatproof bowl.

Heat the cream in a saucepan until it just reaches a boil.  Turn off the heat and let stand for 20 seconds.  Pour cream over the chopped chocolate through a fine-mesh strainer.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Using a whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolate together until chocolate is completely melted.  If the chocolate is not fully meltedby this point, place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Whisk in Grand Marnier, coffee (if you didn't use the espresso powder), and vanilla extract.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about an hour, until firm enough to scoop.

Use a melon baller and scoop rounds of the chocolate mixture onto a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Chill for 30 minutes or until firm again.  Roll each chocolate round in your hands to roughly make a round ball.  Roll in cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, or other topping you like.

The truffles keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator (though I think the texture is best the week it's made), stored in an airtight container.  Bring back to room temperature before serving.  If necessary, you can also re-roll the truffles in their coating before serving.


Plain Chocolate Truffles
Follow recipe listed above and just omit the Grand Marnier





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